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Witch-Hunts in Great Yarmouth and Salem with Dr. Danny Buck

Witch-Hunts in Great Yarmouth and Salem with Dr. Danny Buck Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

Presenting Dr. Danny Buck, Norfolk research historian who examines how witch-hunting was tied to the rise and fall of Presbyterian religious and political hegemony in Great Yarmouth.  Join us now as we discuss the English community of Great Yarmouth and its ties to the New England Salem Witch Trials. We discuss how the two communities show sometimes similar and other times unique witch trial dynamics.  We look for answers to our advocacy questions: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches?Daniel A. Gagnon, A Salem Witch: The Trial, Execution, and Exoneration of Rebecca Nurse. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2021. Dr. Danny Buck, Presbyterianism, Urban Politics, and Division: The 1645 Great Yarmouth Witch-Hunt in Context Petition of Mary Esty and Sarah CloycePetition of Mary EstyPetition of Rebecca Nurse to the CourtAppeal of Rebecca NursePetition of Isaac Esty for Restitution for Mary EstyPetition of Samuel Nurse for Restitution of Rebecca NurseTowne Cousins, Family Association Facebook GroupRichard Hite, In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692 Marilynne K. Roach, The Salem Witch Trials: A Day By Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeUniversity of VA, Salem Witch Trials Documents and TranscriptionsEnd Witch Hunt ProjectsPlease sign the petition to exonerate those accused of witchcraft in ConnecticutLeo Igwe, AfAWAdvocacy Against Witch Hunts, South AfricaJoin us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram  PinterestLinkedInYouTubeSupport the show

Show Notes

Presenting Dr. Danny Buck, Norfolk research historian who examines how witch-hunting was tied to the rise and fall of Presbyterian religious and political hegemony in Great Yarmouth.  Join us now as we discuss the English community of Great Yarmouth and its ties to the New England Salem Witch Trials. We discuss how the two communities show sometimes similar and other times unique witch trial dynamics.  We look for answers to our advocacy questions: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches?

Daniel A. Gagnon, A Salem Witch: The Trial, Execution, and Exoneration of Rebecca Nurse. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2021.
Dr. Danny Buck, Presbyterianism, Urban Politics, and Division: The 1645 Great Yarmouth Witch-Hunt in Context 
Petition of Mary Esty and Sarah Cloyce
Petition of Mary Esty
Petition of Rebecca Nurse to the Court
Appeal of Rebecca Nurse
Petition of Isaac Esty for Restitution for Mary Esty
Petition of Samuel Nurse for Restitution of Rebecca NurseTowne Cousins, Family Association Facebook Group
Richard Hite, In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692
Marilynne K. Roach, The Salem Witch Trials: A Day By Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege
University of VA, Salem Witch Trials Documents and Transcriptions
End Witch Hunt Projects
Please sign the petition to exonerate those accused of witchcraft in Connecticut
Leo Igwe, AfAW
Advocacy Against Witch Hunts, South Africa
Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.
YouTubeSupport the show


Josh Hutchinson: [00:00:00] "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Exodus 22:18.
Josh Hutchinson: Welcome to another episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson. 
Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack. 
Josh Hutchinson: Today's guest is Dr. Danny Buck. We'll be discussing a witch-hunt in Great Yarmouth, England and comparing that to the Salem Witch-hunt. 
Sarah Jack: I am so excited to look at these comparisons with him.
Knowing that some of the ancestors and parents of the accused witches in Salem came from Great Yarmouth really intrigues me, [00:01:00] and I'm looking forward to finding out about its history and who was doing what over there in the mid 17th century.
Josh Hutchinson: We both have familial connections to Great Yarmouth, you through Rebecca Nurse and both of us through Mary Esty. The Towne sisters were born in Great Yarmouth. 
Sarah Jack: Their parents were married there and able to start their family. Rebecca and Mary and Sarah's father was a gardener or a small farmer there.
Because of Dr. Danny Buck's area of expertise, we're getting a chance to look back at the area that Rebecca Nurse's parents started their life and their family, and that really is exciting to me. 
There's an inscription on a tombstone in the cemetery at St. Nicholas Church in Great Yarmouth, England, and this is the church where Rebecca [00:02:00] Towne would've been baptized. 
This life's a voyage. The world's a sea where men are strangely tossed about. Heaven's our port. Steer thou that way. Thou shall anchor safe, no doubt.
Not only is Great Yarmouth interesting because we can understand the background of William and Joanna Towne, but because of what was happening there with the Civil War and the politics and the religious strife, it gives us an insight into the people of the Salem Witch Trial history.
Having a chance to talk with Dr. Buck about Yarmouth's history and what created the environment for the witch trials is a great lens for us as we look again at the Salem Witch Trials. You come to the realization of how important looking at them [00:03:00] together is, once you learn more about both. It's not something that you have to look for common threads. They are related, and that's because of the people and the types of circumstances .
Josh Hutchinson: Today's episode will provide valuable insight into not only the witch-hunt in Great Yarmouth but into the witch-hunt later in Salem. These were the same people we're talking about, the same families coming from Great Yarmouth to New England had the same mentality, the same background, the same upbringing, and the same beliefs about witchcraft.
Especially important in our discussion are the Towne family. You all know Rebecca Nurse and probably her sister Mary Esty, and maybe their sister, Sarah Cloyce, were all [00:04:00] arrested during the Salem Witch-hunt. Rebecca and Mary were born in Great Yarmouth before their family migrated to Salem, where Sarah was born.
Ultimately, sadly, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Esty were executed, but Sarah Cloyce was fortunate to survive, though she was jailed under harsh conditions for a long period. We'll discuss them more when we get to our conversation with Danny Buck. 
Sarah Jack: Dr. Danny Buck is a research historian who has identified the relationship of the Great Yarmouth Witch Trials with the religious tensions between Presbyterians and Church of England conformists in the 1620s and 30s. Also the challenge of Congregationalism, particularly in the 1640s. 
Josh Hutchinson: What are the preconditions for the Great Yarmouth Witch Hunts? What was the background of the community?
Danny Buck: That is a very interesting question cause I, the good thing about getting to write a [00:05:00] PhD on topic is you can really go into detail. And I basically went back to 1625 to argue that some of the preconditions go back to just the existence of King Charles I and his reforms to the church and the tensions that caused between Puritans and particularly Presbyterian Puritans who want to create one unified Puritan church and the Anglicans who at this time are being well, not even properly Anglicans at this time, conformists to the church of England who want to see a church of England that's very pretty, that's very ceremonial, and these tensions and the desire for purity, unity that come out of that seem to me, the heart of what the witch hunt represents. The things that start in 1625, so that's 20 years before the witch hunt proper, create the tensions necessary within the community.
I feel, and I think it's something we see throughout all the witch [00:06:00] hunts, I think we've, you've probably looked at and I've looked at certainly is the sense of a community divides and fearful of something. And in the first place, I think the idea of Presbyterianism, of a Puritanism that calls for a godly unified society, really struggles with the concept and reality of division. Before the English Civil War, this division can be maintained, because it could be used as a way of rallying against that Church of England as represented by Laudianism, by this beauty and holiness and particular in Great Yarmouth the hate figure of the local minister, Matthew Brooks, is something they could all rally against. They definitely agreed they are against him. I've got a fantastic record from Matthew Brooks saying about how much he's hated, and you'll see how they all work together.
They abuse him, they abuse his assistant, they abuse his children. It's something they can work against. [00:07:00] So that's our first step. We've got this division within the community, but I don't think at that point, it's necessarily inevitable. With the outbreak of what we refer to the English Civil War, we start getting a breakdown in society comparable to other breakdowns I think you must see in North America, just before Salem, whereby government from London is getting truncated. There's a war on. Power is devolved down to the local area in terms of military government called the Eastern Association.
That means that instead of judges coming up from London, we're reliant on military figures. So this creates more power to localities, towns like Great Yarmouth. They have to sort things out themselves. Also there's a disjunction in government about deciding what religion is going to look like. There's this great calling together of ministers called the Westminister Assembly of Divines. And they spend years debating, arguing, and they agree they ought to have a Presbyterian [00:08:00] settlement, but there's enough people who think that's not a great idea for there to be tension. So this national tension over religion is then played out in Great Yarmouth in a very personal way. 
Firstly, one of the members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, a man called William Bridge is one of the leading proponents of what's called independency, a belief there's one big, national Puritan Church, you have a series of separate congregations. He is invited to Great Yarmouth by the MP and later regicide Miles Corbet. He settles there, and from 1643, we see the development of his own separate church. I find this particularly fascinating in how it plays into sort of the tensions that lay behind witch hunting, because it's both a separation, a division within the community again, one where the Puritans are beginning to fall out amongst themselves. But in particular it's growth as a separate church peaks in 1645, the same time as the witch-hunt. Is also quite [00:09:00] remarkable in this involves a large number of women joining that community. So we see on an average two to one of the local converts are women, often without their husbands.
And it's followed up by the returning Puritan Presbyterian minister, a man by the name John Brinsley, providing a fantastic sermon called A Looking Glass for Good Women. The expectations of how these women should be behaving, which is basically continue to be Puritan. Again, it does include an exclusion saying this doesn't include our congregationalists, our independent friends, but I can't help but feel there's gotta be some tension there, but he's losing members of his the unification of the Puritan community.
So this tension, the desire to return to a unified puritan community certainly feeds into a precondition for the members of the elite, the people in the town to support witch hunting. But a more vivid religious threat comes from a group of anabaptists, so these are people [00:10:00] who really are radical for the 17th century.
I think that we've got a wonderful record of this, where John Brinsley, the puritan minister, writes this long letter to Thomas Edwards, the heresiographer, the man who just collects every awful religious view out there. And at one point, he describes it as the worst heresy since time began or since Christian history, when a John Boggis this former member of the army who's come into the town, part of garrison, he rolls up and he, first of all, he over grace, he says, "who are we offering thanks to? Not to God." Another time he describes the Bible as but paper, and probably the most awful thing is he bursts into the puritan minister's dinner and decides he's gonna declare they're gonna debate. So this real separate, private churches, separate communities, creating a real sense of fear and tension that makes this fear of people within your community.[00:11:00] 
Again, attempts to remove John Boggis come as 1645, just after the witch-hunt. It feels like a wider process of religious regeneration and attempt to make the community feel more cohesive. But again, this is still feeding off real fears and tensions. We've got people whose children have been languishing for the last year and a half being unwell.
We have a problem of real economic turmoil caused by the civil wars that feed into this, but I can't help but feel the religious element is striking in how it defines what's possible and how people understand their conflict within their community. 
By 1690s, how settled is the Salem community? Are they feeling something unique and new? Obviously we have the idea of the American identity is something that comes more the revolution, but is there a distinct sense that this colonial community having its own sense of itself, by this [00:12:00] point?
Sarah Jack: I feel like they were still having tug of war over what that identity was gonna be.
Josh Hutchinson: Well, there was a sense in Massachusetts Bay Colony, especially involving the style of government, they very much wanted to be self govern. They really valued the original charter they had from the king. In 1684, King Charles II revoked their charter, and they didn't have one again until 1692. After the witch trials had begun, the new governor showed up with the new charter, and they were rather upset in the colony about that charter. They felt that they had lost some of their liberties as a unique government. They were forced to tolerate other religions. That was one of their big things. They didn't want to tolerate the Quakers and the Anglicans and the Baptists. 
 [00:13:00] And you have that sense of a diabolical conspiracy in New England. Very much. They basically thought that everybody was out to get them. Even to some extent, the English government being out to ruin their plans for covenant community Puritan church. And they're surrounded. They're in a wilderness basically, as they see it. They believe that the original inhabitants of that wilderness worship the devil They have warfare with the French constantly.
They're afraid of a papist conspiracy of the Catholics coming against them, working in league with Satan and with his other worshipers already there. So they're very much besieged in their eyes at that time of the witch trials. 
Danny Buck: I think that's a really nice comparison, the sense of the siege mentality. So obviously in [00:14:00] England at this time, there's the greater siege mentality of being at war with the king and that war taking on very much that cataclysmic, end of days feel. I imagine it must be similar during King Philip's War, the sense that all these townships that were thriving are now forced on their uppers. 
In Great Yarmouth, there's part of a wider trade collapse, as it's reliant on merchants, is of starving strangling. This is the evidence of an increased population of people fleeing the countryside. On top of that, they are bouts of pestilence mentioned and in particular for Great Yarmouth, the great stranglehold, the besieging comes from without, from the sea, where as you may have read there's highly reliant on the herring fleet. Herring, delicious fish, part of the North Sea, but to catch it, you often have to go all the way up to Iceland, right up the North Sea, which is fine in peacetime, but in wartime, Great Yarmouth managed to make an enemy of its nearby neighbor the town of Lowestoft, [00:15:00] and there's one man called Thomas Allen, whose ship was in Great Yarmouth.
They took it because he was involved in a royalist plot. He flees and he raises that piratical group of privateers in the king's service and almost wipes out the herring fleet. So this is what's reliant on the day-to-day living of most ordinary people in the town. That's the kind of thing where if you think of the model witch carter's charity refused as Keith Thomas argues, you can see why people Great Yarmouth would be starving.
The herring, in some ways it's the living because people go and fish it, sell it. There's supplies from that. You have the industries linked to that, so barrelmaking, ropemaking, protecting the keys. But on top of that, a certain amount of the catch was used as the funding for charitable exercises, so it's like a special tax on it levied by the corporation.
So you imagine that also collapses at the same time when everything else is going so economically wrong. On top of that, you have some really harsh winters, [00:16:00] 1644, 1645, 1646. There isn't enough money for coal. There's no coal to be found at times. So people are starving, hungry, and then we have people coming, asking for charity, for support. As part of this, people get rejected for that. Things start going wrong.
We see why some witchcraft accusations emerge, but they are seen as part of this great war against the great enemy. Certainly it's something very catastrophic about being civil war on top of that, you've had soldiers garrisoned in Great Yarmouth, because it's seen as a possible invasion coast. The very top of Norfolk, called King's Lynn, is seen as a possible entry point for the armies of the king. That is briefly held by a group of rebels, royalists supporting backed rebels for a couple of months, the summer of 1643. We know the supporters of the king on the continent. The queen Henrietta Maria is trying to raise money and mercenaries. [00:17:00] And one of those ships is blown into Great Yarmouth, becomes part of their little own protection fleet, but also there's the, this Great Yarmouth that's just the south.
Is this very flat area called Lovingland or Lovingland. I think today it's Lovingland then it was Lovingland. Contrast, but it's seems this perfect area to landing is where Lowestoft is, where they have this royalist uprising. So despite seeming in the middle, what's the most secure part of parliamentary territory in the East Association, good Puritan towns, raising large bits of armies, the Homeland of Oliver Cromwell and his Ironside.
It still seems fundamentally vulnerable. I imagine, how far is Salem from the fighting in the 1680s? 
Josh Hutchinson: It's not terribly far. There's a town called Andover that's adjacent to Salem Village and then beyond Andover, there's another town called Haverhill. Haverhill and Andover ultimately get attacked [00:18:00] during King William's War in the 1690s. So they're very much out near the frontier exposed. If the enemy comes through there, they're in Salem, essentially.
Danny Buck: I think there has to be something to that. The way people rationalize this war against a papist enemy, against an enemy who's not just, the enemy of Parliament, it's the enemy of God. The fact that Henrietta Maria a Catholic is sending over mercenaries. The fact that there are allegations that some of the witches in Norfolk are sending their familiars off to help prince Rupert.
That is part of this papist, demonic conspiracy. Despite being the second line of this conflict, and being uncomfortably close to billeted soldiers who are being radicalized with this conflict, sense of real tension there. 
Josh Hutchinson: One of the accused of witchcraft stated specifically that, when she ultimately confesses to [00:19:00] witchcraft, one of her reasons is that she was afraid of the Native Americans, and the Devil promised that he would protect her.
Danny Buck: That's fascinating.
 I also find this devil's promise is fascinating as a whole. First of all, the Devil is the tempter, but also somehow often a failed figure. So the sense of the one case I've got a really good record of, the confession. There's a woman called Elizabeth Bradwell. She's old. She hasn't got any family. I think the records aren't sure if she's a spinster or widow. She's someone who seems to be very lonely. She's reliant on charity from the local ministers. She's asking for work or for charity, but she's refused. So she goes home. She goes, first of all, to the man of business, he says, no, the master's not here. I can't give you anything. She goes to the maid. The maid says the same thing. She goes home, she's angry, she's discontented. And this tall, black man appears in front of her and promises her [00:20:00] revenge and no more need of money. It doesn't say how much money he gets her, but it's enough. And she must sign his book in her own blood. That it's revenge and a little money. There's not very much in some ways to damn yourself with.
Josh Hutchinson: There were some cases in Salem where it was a pair of shoes, or a fashion book was all they were gonna get, versus other cases where one girl claimed that he offered her all the kingdoms that she saw from the top of Great Mountain that he took her to. So you have this whole range from basically a pittance to everything
Danny Buck: He's also interesting figure, particularly in that confession I talked of. He does seem almost like a minister himself. He's got his little book, he requires her to sign in, he's got his fancy pen dressed in black, quite an imposing figure. And again, we certainly, by the [00:21:00] 1650s, their description of the Devil was the Great Quaker in England.
What kind of shape does he take in Salem?
Josh Hutchinson: He's described often as the black man. Sometimes he's described as being tawny like a Native American. They say other times he gets those ministerial features. He's dressed in black. Sometimes he's tall. Sometimes he's short. Changes a lot, but sometimes he very much resembles Minister George Burroughs. He's a little, dark-haired man dressed in black, carrying a book, getting people to sign a covenant with him like they would entering the church but doing it in blood or in red ink.
Danny Buck: And does the tradition of the familiar cross over? 
Josh Hutchinson: Very much. They have imps. They have a creature that was hairy all over, but like a man,[00:22:00] they have a monkey with a rooster's head as one of them. Lots of cats and dogs, sometimes pigs people would shift into. They had a lot of birds. Have one girl. They arrest this four year old girl. She describes having a snake that would suck between her fingers and says that her mother, who was accused before her, gave her the snake as a familiar, they had quite an imagination.
Danny Buck: It makes my reference to a Blackbird seem rather tame by comparison. 
Josh Hutchinson: In some of those confessions, they get really elaborate.
Danny Buck: So obviously the process of examination is quite interesting. So in Great Yarmouth, we have just a reference to midwives who are too expensive. So need to be they need to be limited to, I think, just four of them. So we've got Elizabeth Howard who's one of the midwives. The corporation ordered 12 pence a day for their service and in the future, they will only to [00:23:00] be hiring four women, cause they were just ruinously expensive to get the evidence there.
Again, we have dark allegations about what Hopkins is doing. We know that some of the accused witches were being examined by the local ministers. So no, their bodies are being searched by the midwives. There's no evidence for some of the harsh methods. Matthew Hopkins, who was invited in by the corporation to investigate the cases was famous for.
So no swimming, no pricking. Again, suspect they'd been kept awake a while in the jail, but we've got no evidence of that. What kind of methods are being employed by those searching the witches in Salem?
Josh Hutchinson: They have the same with the midwife searching for the witches marks, or in the case of male suspects, they have a group of men search them, which sometimes is the jailer and whoever else they can enlist. The marshal, maybe the sheriff, in some cases, [00:24:00] they find these marks. They test them out. Put a pin through the mark to see if anything comes out.
If it's insensitive, the person doesn't feel it, then that's a witch's mark for sure. They have that going on. They have the magistrates doing the other examinations. Basically grilling the suspect with a lot of leading questions. Starting out with why are you a witch? When did you become a witch? How long did you volunteer to serve him for?
How did Satan appear to you? They're never asking them their side of the story. They're telling them their side of the story. There was no swimming in Salem. There was a bit in Connecticut. There was a case in Andover where they did a mass touch test. Where they believed that the person that the witch had afflicted by making contact with the witch, [00:25:00] transferred the magic back to the witch, uh, would be healed.
So they would take these afflicted girls who were having fits, they blindfold them, have them going around randomly touching people, and if they stop having a fit, that's a witch. This actually happens in and over. Where they were quite intense and belligerent in trying to get people to confess there.
No pricking. There are a couple cases though, where they tie them neck and heels until the blood comes out of their nose and they get a confession.
Danny Buck: Yeah. I think I'll probably confess at that point. 
Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. And they leave them like that for hours and hours until that happens. 
There's some other cases where they might have done the thing of keeping them awake. There's some petitions that reference that idea that they were [00:26:00] basically out of their minds at the point that they confessed.
Danny Buck: Yeah, it is shocking, quite how close people were able to skirt the lines of what's expected of legality. Again, partly, the argument of the witch hunt is that it is cruel necessity? That this is part of the war on demonic forces. Do you think that's why these things burn out so quickly? The very fact you're having to create these emergency measures. The fact you're having to carry something out, and it's supposed to be this radical solution and it doesn't work. And also it's is just so traumatic for everyone involved. Even those making accusations.
Like in Great Yarmouth we have 15 people accused by the end of the September. So we start off with the first accusations, April 1645, last ones in September of that year, we have half of them are convicted lead to hanging in that year. And then a further five [00:27:00] the next year come to trial. None of 'em are found guilty, already the desire to carry this out all burnt out. The midwives are too expensive. Hopkins isn't invited back. It seems like it's this very sharp flame, but it can't be sustained very long. 
Sarah Jack: Josh and I were talking about how quickly that turned, that he had been invited on the first incident and then was not called for the second.
Danny Buck: Again, partly it's Hopkins' own myth. He's someone who's very effective.. But for me, he is fantastic as this sort of shamanistic figure comes in. He resolves your problem. He's invited in, but that only works as long as he's effective.
Certainly with Great Yarmouth, I feel like Hopkins has already had a bit of a dry run, because he has been invited to previous other towns connected to the MP in Great Yarmouth, Miles Corbet, where he also acts as the judge. The title at the time is recorder. So we've already, [00:28:00] got Aldeburgh further down the coast in Suffolk, where he is recorder, where he's obviously been involved in trials where Hopkins has arrived, and obviously Hopkins built his reputation first of all, in Essex, where he's obviously been very successful about getting conviction after conviction. But already by the middle of 1645, I think his legend is beginning to weigh. People are criticizing his methodology. So got Thomas Scott at the same time. People are feeling he's not as effective, and they're paying him quite a lot for this.
He obviously he's a gentleman. I think it's too cynical to see him as fleecing people to do this. I think he believes he's got the methodology. I think he believes he owes certain level of respect for his status now, his self-declared Witchfinder General status, which requires people to pay for his lodging as a gentleman should be kept.
But that's still gonna put you off as a time when I've mentioned tax income is gonna be down cause of the problems of the trade collapse. The North Sea is lousy [00:29:00] with pirates. When they all know people are suffering because their herring has been collapsed, there's plague going on. Providing the support for ordinary people is now it's much bigger burden.
So you can justify bringing Hopkins as a short term response, but you can't because the English system, he doesn't get rewarded for this, the money doesn't come in from witchcraft trials, you might get somewhere like Germany where they can self sustain, but maybe a couple of years. Instead, yeah, he burns himself out.
Which doesn't help that. And on top of that, therefore that the crisis continues in these towns unabated, and it's from 1646, we see that for religious toleration, as opposed to exclusion, reduces other pressure, I think of the witch hunt, but what brings the dying down in New England?
Josh Hutchinson: In New England, I think they just reach critical mass with the number of accusations, and they're starting to target the wealthier, more influential people. [00:30:00] There's a rumor that they accuse the wife of the governor himself, but they're going through these kind of brutal methods, especially in Andover, so you're accumulating resistance that way.
A lot of petitions starting to come in saying, These people confess, but they didn't mean. They were forced into it, driven to it. You have those things. You have just the quality of the people that they're accusing very much religious people. You have Sarah's ancestor, Rebecca Nurse. She's seen as a pillar of the religious community in Salem Village, and yet she's accused.
So you get that village divided fairly early on. And other towns that it spreads to. You have similar incidents there in Salem Town. They accused the minister's daughter in Andover. They're [00:31:00] accusing dozens of people related to the minister, and you just get this cumulative effect from those types of things.
Sarah Jack: One of the comparisons between Great Yarmouth and the Salem accusations that I noticed was I believe it was in 1646, when it really mattered if they had somebody that was standing up for them, if they were attached to a male or a powerful person, but in Salem, they were gathering lots of support and signatures.
And that still was not like that. It looked like it was gonna help Rebecca, but then it wasn't enough. The governor didn't do anything with all of those signatures. 
Josh Hutchinson: At one point, the governor does issue a reprieve of Rebecca Nurse, but then some people who aren't named, Salem gentlemen, show up and pressure him, and he reverses that, [00:32:00] and her sister, Mary Towne Esty, is actually released from jail. The afflicted people have basically double the fits that they were having before, and the court reverses on that.
But you have these petitions starting to gather Steve. Dozens of people signing them. It's one for a woman named Mary Bradbury. So you have a lot of support for the accused that builds as these popular people are getting accused.
Danny Buck: Yeah, I think the closest we get to that in Great Yarmouth, big case is that of the local astrologer Mark Prynn, it was a faceting character. He's someone who the local MP has a grudge against for quite some time. Cuz there's a first accusation, 1637. Then comes back again, 1645. It's the case I've really enjoyed, cause I've got to talk about it in length in a second article, because this blows up in 1645 in a really interesting way. Because obviously [00:33:00] astrology is this fine line. The astrologers themselves claim it's Christian, it's science, it's very ordered and disciplined, it's about just understanding the stars. This chap, he's doing a good enough job that people are asking him for lost hats, lost cushions, lost metal items. So he's making it as a side hustle, as I think they'd say today between his job as an actual farmer, a tenant farmer. He's interesting cause he's got links to the local conformist Church of England minister. He's one of his tenants, and later the assistant to the minister, Thomas Cheshire, comes back to defend the farmer Mr. Prynn later. But it, but what's really interesting for the case is the MP involved, the recorder Miles Corbet, he's made a few enemies, and I've got this fantastic 12 stanza poem by the water poet, John Taylor, who just hates Corbet so much. So he uses this case as a way to discredit him. And I think this is part of the reason why I [00:34:00] think it's hard to sustain that campaign when you're being mocked for it.
I think this in so much prefigures what goes on in England after the Restoration, where belief in witchcraft is used as a way to label Puritans as superstitious, as foolish in a way that I don't think quite manages to get across the colonies in quite the same way. But in short, what happens is that according to the satirical poem, Corbet looks at the collection of astrological books and believes they've referenced demons and devils, whether they're in fact star constellations, or just names of Arabic philosophers.
So again, it's trying to make Corbet look credulous and foolish in a way that puritan fears of witches are being increasingly seen as something ridiculous. You see it, the civil war, as well, and Mark Stoyle's written really convincingly on the poem about Prince Rupert's dog, Boy, being a familiar, being a royalist satire that already it's mocked the Puritan sphere of the demonic.
But in this [00:35:00] case, according to the poet, John Taylor, Prynn is just a conman. His friend, Thomas Cheshire comes up speak for him and says, no, he can't be a demonic. He's not raising spirits. He's just conning old ladies out of money. And so making the whole thing look ridiculous. And in particular making Corbet's fear of the demonic, witches, and of this suppose seemingly harmless, man, as some kind of sorceror, as something that makes them just look silly.
And I think that is also something that, that brings an end to general fears is seeing the people making these accusations, not as concerned citizens, as people desperately fearful of an enemy within, but citizens somehow laughably frightened of their aging neighbors or a strange man up the road who just reads almanacs for a living.
Yeah. I dunno. Is that something you ever see New England, some kind of mockery of how ridiculous the whole thing has become?
Josh Hutchinson: You get some mockery at the [00:36:00] very end of it. There's a man named Thomas Brattle, who's a scientist among other things, and he writes a famous letter in October, 1692. He criticizes the whole philosophy of how witchcraft is supposed to work, how they employ the touch test, why they employ it. He criticizes those things.
It criticizes the spectral evidence that they're using. Do they have spectral evidence in Great Yarmouth?
Danny Buck: The only thing I've seen mentioned is people mention raising spirits as were the crimes. But no, allegedly Elizabeth Bradwell uses a wax poppet to it buried, which is supposed to create illness, but they never find it. By the time they go and dig it up, it has either rotted away or was never there.
But spectral evidence as a whole, it's just reliant on confessions. 
Josh Hutchinson: In Salem, they very much rely on spectral evidence.[00:37:00] They believe and accuse the suspects of physically being in one place while their spirit goes out to other places to afflict, and their spirit can travel any distance they want to, twenty miles or more in an instant, and afflict somebody. They even have witches show up to meetings from as far off as Connecticut.
But you have witnesses saying, "I saw them at home. They were at home with me. They couldn't have done that." But yet these afflicted, mostly young girls, are coming together and saying, "we all saw this happen," and they used that evidence. 
Even though we've spoken before on the show about the Connecticut witch trials. In Connecticut, you have John Winthrop, Jr. [00:38:00] serving as governor for a long time. He's actually an alchemist, a scientist, and he disputes the spectral evidence, says you need to have at least two witnesses seeing these things happen at the same time, you can't have one witness come in and say, "I saw it this time," another witness say, "I saw this other incident." You need to corroborate. So, he gets rid of spectral evidence before Salem happens. This is in the 1650s, sixties, seventies, but then interestingly, enough his son Wait-still Winthrop is one of the judges at Salem who accepts the spectral evidence. 
Danny Buck: Interesting how these old beliefs have such a hold over such a time. 
Josh Hutchinson: Early on, the judges asked a group [00:39:00] of Boston area ministers for advice. They wrote what's called the return of several ministers. In it, they're cautioning against the use of spectral evidence and against some of the other aspects, but then at the very end, Cotton Mather, one of the most famous divines in New England, writes on there, but proceed vigorously against all those who have rendered themselves obnoxious.
So he's advocating for speedy trials, a quick resolution to this, because he very much believes in the diabolical conspiracy and sort of contradicts what the rest of the letter said. So the judges choose to basically ignore all of the letter except for that last bit, and they're led by William Stoughton, [00:40:00] who's the deputy governor, and he really takes a hard line, agrees that there's this conspiracy happening and they have to, get the devil out of New England before he destroys all of the churches.
Sarah Jack: When Dr. Buck asked about mockery, I was thinking Ben Franklin came to mind because there's that essay that possibly he wrote in 1730, "A Witch Trial at Mount Holly." That just popped into my mind. So I was thinking about that's that was like, 40 years after witch trials.
Danny Buck: Again, just the sort of scale of history that again, we've got Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce, both of these, and Mary Towne, they leave Yarmouth 10, 15 years before the trial in the big witch-hunt in Great Yarmouth. We've got trial happening. Then the people of that are people who know Ben Franklin and then lead onto the [00:41:00] revolution, only a couple of generations of that span. That's fascinating. Also, I think it's very interesting when you talk about Franklin's mockery, comparing that to the famous poem, which mocks a lot of the civil wars by Samuel Butler, "Hudibras." He brings in the figure of Hopkins as someone who's got the devil's book, he's secretly a witch himself, and then is hanged for it.
When in fact he died of tuberculosis a couple of years afterwards. That again, that mock of making it the past, finding a way to get past it and reject that era. I think that's quite interesting as how you get perspective past it and try and reduce the horror of it all, perhaps.
Josh Hutchinson: Yeah, it's an interesting point how the spread of time works there, because in Salem, the oldest victim is 81 years old at the time that he's pressed to death with stones, [00:42:00] because he refused to stand trial, so he's born in around 1611, and you have him on the one end where you have these young afflicted girls.
And you have a man named Joseph Putnam is one of the early critics of the trial. He's related to the chief accusers, the Putnam family, but his son, Israel, is a major general in Washington's army. So just one generation apart, Salem Witch Trials, Revolution. And with Ben Franklin, his aunt, Bathsheba Folger Pope, is actually one of the afflicted persons in Salem.
Danny Buck: Cause again, the whole era is this such a transformation point in global history, but particularly in the Atlantic world, I've found it [00:43:00] very interesting to read book recently on the regicides who escaped to America. And the fact that they were able to hide out there for so long and became part of this founding myth of Republican America, which, you know, how this, the two nations interlinked, but also separating at this point, in some cases for some people, the sort of Puritan communities of New England represent what England could have been become, if it didn't decide to go crawling back to the king. And that sense of those sort destinies and both the positives and negatives of that we can see of the communities riven by a godly dream of regeneration and living a better life. But also with that diabolical fear, seems such an interesting contrast.
Go back to the Puritans, the same people who are pushing for the witch hunt are the people pushing for new workhouses. It's such a contradiction at times, people who want to make the world so much better, kinder [00:44:00] a lot of ways where people are struggling, but the same people who are willing to bully a Church of England minister, threaten to throw sand and lime in his eyes to protect their community.
It's so wonderfully vivid. 
Josh Hutchinson: It's a fascinating period of history. As you mentioned, there's such profound change going on, and in a lot of ways that change itself is what's driving these witch hunts. It's maybe growing pains you could describe it as, or all that conflict. They're trying to pin that conflict on Satan and his agents. 
Danny Buck: Yeah. It's a real sense of a lost identity, I think, or losing identity. I think you could probably put the sort of a hundred years after reformation in England are times when people are really struggling to define themselves and their community, because it is something that's become [00:45:00] very changeable and flexible.
The classic cases, if you go back to things like the Pendle Witch Trials, where people, the magic there is allegedly a form of the sympathetic magic that comes from the Catholic medieval traditions that have survived, that is a need for folk magic. And to take that away to desacrilize the world. You leave the darkness and the danger there, but you remove a lot the ways that people can combat that. As interesting with a lot of the religious nonconformance groups that emerge, like the Quakers and others. Peter Elmer writes about this fascinatingly, that the idea that witchcraft becomes and possession becomes part of their tool.
So they seek to restore some of that magic to the world. The age of miracles, if you believe in miracles, positive miracles, like the Quakers do be able to speak in tongue, being able to form a relationship with God. That means there's still room there for the demonic, but also room to protect yourself from it, to be able to be the godly people who [00:46:00] can push out the spirits inhabiting people, but it, then it makes the identity of witchcraft so much more complex and harder for people who see themselves as orthodox to deal with, if it's something that's being taken up with, people who are a lot more radical.
Josh Hutchinson: That's an excellent point. They have a great shift there when the reformation happens and they stripped all of those Catholic rites like exorcism and other protective magic kind of elements, as the reformers see it, anyways, as magic.
And then you're left with nothing but witches. And the idea of the Satanic Pact where people are actually in league with Satan, physically meeting him and covenant.
Danny Buck: Okay. There's definitely a case. There are two options for you. If you are godly enough, if you go to church enough, the devil can't harm you. If you haven't got that, you're a small [00:47:00] child, then you're in danger and it doesn't seem, there's no kind of protection available except to get the person to confess, to get the ministers involved, to defeat the magic.
The power to defeat witchcraft seemed to move upwards in the social scale, your gentlemen like Hopkins, your witchfinders, your magistrates, the judges who can be given God's power to judge the unworthy and to deal with them, or ministers who are educated enough to know what's going on, fits in some of the, I the idea of Puritan and the focus on the words, the focus on ministry.
Sarah Jack: I'm really thinking about the Quaker thing and that piece of their power, their godliness, giving them power over evil, that progression of personal religion. That's very interesting. My mind's thinking about that now.
Danny Buck: They say also interesting because people take it the opposite way.
Elmer written fantastically on this, that the fact they can do miracles means, they seem to be angels clad in rayments of light, but are they [00:48:00] secretly of the devil's party? It's upon the 1650s where the devil is called the Great Quaker, as a belief that the miracles being done by men like George Fox are, in fact, demonic magic, or that the fact that they suddenly start spreading so quickly, they're bewitching people. There's a contemporary theory that the ribbons they were giving out were actually charms. During the 1650s, they are so controversial. Sometimes they're playing Jesus, one of them entering Bristol on a donkey, having palm leaves thrown in front of him. Sometimes seem to be linked to plots of revolution.
They're so nebulous as well that they could be seen as this underground force, but it's interesting that they, despite these fears of them, there isn't the pressure to condemn them as witches. They're called witches behind their back. You face these allegations, but they're not convicted of that.
So as the, of heresy, so this locks up for being annoying, but they never faced witchcraft accusations against them, [00:49:00] even though the popular imagination casts them as witches, which again, post that shift of that push for toleration after the civil wars.
Sarah Jack: And Josh, which executed, accused, quoted a Quaker curse? 
Josh Hutchinson: Sarah Good when she said, "the devil will give you blood to drink." That was from the Bible, but it was used in a famous Quaker sermon or other publication, and that was directed to the minister Nicholas Noyes. And then he's believed to have actually died with blood in his mouth. That's famous legend associated with it. There's a couple curses.
Danny Buck: I think my favorite one of that is, is nearby King's Lynn. I mentioned before the story of a witch accused there, I think earlier than the Hopkins hunt who was being burnt. So again, popular folk story, her heart exploded out, and you can still [00:50:00] see the patch on the nearby church where her exploded heart hit it.
Josh Hutchinson: That's intense.
Danny Buck: We got the, again, the sense of wilderness sometimes, which again, we think of England is pretty tamed, but the idea of the giant demonic dog, which is seen, familiars. We also have the story of black shook, who's again, a dog that represents the devil that's supposedly lurks in East Anglia and takes the unwary.
How does that compare to the actual wildlife of New England? Like it is literally dangerous to leave your streets. Not only with the Native Americans, French, but still surrounded by wolves, and there's real sense of wilderness in a way that maybe coastal towns with their salt flats and their bleakness on a sort of North Sea wind in the winter might feel, but not gonna be the same as New England and it's majesty and harshness and cruelty.
Josh Hutchinson: Still have mountain lions, bears, wolves. They're all over the place. [00:51:00] They have bounties on wolves. You kill a wolf and pin its head to the side of the church. That sort of thing's still going on. You do get stories. There's one girl, Abigail Hobbs, who's about 15 when she's accused, but she said that years earlier when she lived on the frontier in Maine, that a black dog came to her and was the devil in the form of dog, and spoke with her and got her to agree to be a witch.
And there's a case with Sarah Good. They accuse her of, it's unclear whether they're accusing her of becoming a wolf or sending a wolf to chase one of them, but allegedly, this wolf comes from Sarah Good in some way and chases one of the afflicted persons.
Danny Buck: That's obviously the foundation myth of Matthew Hopkins in the fact he went out there and was [00:52:00] faced with this giant black dog. His dog ran away, but he stood firm, as evidence he was being pursued by these witches. 
Oh there is one, there is some preventative magic used in East Anglia, which needs to come across this period with the witch bottle. Is this something we see sometimes in New England, the fact that people fill a bottle full of urine, that urine's believed to contain the magic, often soaking some iron and then put into the fire as way to break. 
Josh Hutchinson: They have a variety. We just spoke with someone a few days ago about folk magic and Salem.
One of the things that they would do would be to nail a horseshoe above their door to prevent a witch from entering. They'd also bury things, enter near the hearth to prevent a witch from coming down the chimney. Still find in these old houses shoes, dead cats. Interesting artifacts. You do have some stories of the witch bottle itself.
They bake a witch cake [00:53:00] to identify a witch. They make a cake, they feed it to a dog, and it's unclear how they expected to identify the witch, but that was their practice in one case. 
Danny Buck: Some of those sound all too familiar, obviously these, the same communities, the same traditions survive. There's this one dead cat I've seen for the Ipswich museum collection a couple of times now. Shoes survive that.
That's really interesting. Is there any tradition of marks above the hearth as well as a, for protection? 
Josh Hutchinson: Oh, there are daisy wheels.
Sarah Jack: And hexafoil. 
Josh Hutchinson: Hexafoils. That's what it is. Yeah. They have hexafoils in various locations 
Danny Buck: Yeah. That's definitely something that's come directly over.
Fantastic collection. I think they're referred Germany as witch's marks, but definitely that protective magic, these interest and exit points. You think these communities, they're still keeping them going. Even that far across the [00:54:00] ocean, even these godly communities, these little things that are meant to keep you safe in a world that's so uncertain.
Josh Hutchinson: And this is in 1692. It's also a few generations removed by that point. Still have these older individuals. Rebecca and Mary Towne were born in England and raised by English parents, so they would have those traditions still. But you also have people who are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the original settlers, and they still believe the very same folk traditions.
Danny Buck: I always find that interesting. 
 We're very lucky now to been living in a sort of bit of a renaissance in witchcraft studies of various certain kinds, all kinds of different interpretation approaches.
And I'm lucky that Peter Elmer, the other political witch-hunt chap has retired, so I'm not doing too badly. We live in a real era when people are exploring the [00:55:00] witch in so many different angles. So it'll keep you busy and me busy hopefully for the next few years.
Josh Hutchinson: We're very grateful that you came on the show. It's been a wonderful chat for us.
Danny Buck: I think if anything I've learned more from this than probably you and your audience. So I've, I've really enjoyed my time.
Josh Hutchinson: And now Sarah has an update on witchcraft related persecution going on now.
Sarah Jack: Welcome to this episode's Witchcraft Victim Advocacy Report, sponsored by End Witch Hunts News. Over the last several weeks, I've been bringing you witch hunt happenings in your world. I have given you an idea of some communities where witchcraft fear is claiming lives and turning fearful people into murderers of innocent neighbors and family members.
Can you remember what countries we have discussed? Nigeria and South Africa, but what other countries are living in modern witch hunt environments? Some other countries of Africa where witch [00:56:00] hunting is reality are Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. But there's another world neighbor you must meet, nations of the Asia Pacific. Fiji, India, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Saudi Arabia are also experiencing violent crimes stemming from witchcraft fear. The people of the world must take action together to grow intolerance for witch hunt behaviors and violence. Until that intolerance sets in, you'll see the headlines of the horrible suffering of innocent accused witches.
We want the tolerance of these injustices to be history, but today it is not. It is with us, a part of us. One action you can take is to support movements that are shedding light on these injustices. 
For America, you can support the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project. Encourage the Connecticut state legislature to make an official acknowledgement that those tried for witchcraft in colonial Connecticut should have their good name restored. Sign the [00:57:00] petition asking for the acknowledgement. When Connecticut takes the stand, it is a statement for the intolerance of witch hunt behaviors. 
For Africa, go online and learn about the advocacies and what work they're doing to build an intolerance of witchcraft crimes and the nation's there.
In the upcoming weeks, we will be providing more information on more countries needing our support and collaboration. But today you can go to our episode show notes for links to these projects. Click those links, read about that nation, the victims, the advocacy. Then do more.
Join us. You can do it from your location with your technology, social media, and art. Do you write? Make a statement. Do you illustrate? Make a statement. Do you perform? Make a statement. Do you tweet? Tweet a statement. Do you meet up with friends, family, or colleagues? Start a conversation, and everyone leave and make a statement. If you see a statement, share it. 
You see, this work builds on each action, and each action is [00:58:00] growing the message of how do we stop hunting witches. Stop witch fear. Until it is stopped, harm is happening to innocent humans. Listeners, let's support the countries in Africa and in the Asia Pacific. Please use all your communication channels, including your art form, to intervene, not just stand by and hope change will transpire. Change can happen as we take action together.
Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah, for shining a light on these dark events. 
Sarah Jack: You're welcome. 
Josh Hutchinson: Thank you all for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. 
Sarah Jack: I'm really looking forward to next week's topic with Cassandra Roberts Hesseltine and Dr. Annika Hylmo. We are going to discuss their documentary, The Last Witch.
The Last Witch follows the eighth grade class from North Andover Massachusetts and their teacher, [00:59:00] Carrie LaPierre, as they've worked to exonerate forgotten accused witch Elizabeth Johnson, Jr.
We will hear from them on what that journey has been, what it means to descendants and the students. And for Elizabeth Johnson, Jr. 
Josh Hutchinson: Like, subscribe, or follow wherever you get your podcasts.
Sarah Jack: Goodbye.
Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow. Thou shalt tune in next week.
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